Arab Israelis losing their pride in Israel, study shows

Three-quarters of Arabs here feel they are being discriminated against, according to the annual Israeli Democracy Index. A third of Jews find it more important for Israel to be Jewish than democratic

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Young Arab women sit on the beach in Tel Aviv earlier this year (photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)
Young Arab women sit on the beach in Tel Aviv earlier this year (photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)

The number of Israeli Arabs who say they are proud of their Israeli citizenship has decreased significantly over the last 12 months, a survey released Thursday revealed.

According to the 2012 Israeli Democracy Index, 44.5% of Israel’s Arab population takes pride in being Israeli. Twenty percent said they are “not so proud” and nearly 30% said they are “not at all proud” of their citizenship.

In last year’s index, 52.8% of Arab respondents had said they were either very proud or quite proud to be Israeli.

“There are those who would argue that this reflects a low proportion of Arab citizens taking pride in being Israeli,” the survey’s authors wrote, “yet others would assert that in the case of a national minority of unequal status, nearly one half defining themselves as proud to varying degrees, is a remarkably high percentage.”

Said Tamar Hermann, the academic director of IDI’s Guttman Center for Surveys: “The difference between 2011 and 2012 does not necessarily indicate a trend, as this number fluctuates a bit. Moreover, over the years, the percentage of Israeli Arabs who take pride in their Israeli identity has hovered around 48%, plus or minus a few percentage points. It is remarkable that consistently approximately half of Arab citizens are proud of being Israeli. This is significant given their citizenship in a Jewish state, the gaps between Arabs and Jews culturally and otherwise, and the sense of discrimination the majority of Arabs feel.”

Indeed the survey, based on a representative, random, nationwide sample of 1,025 respondents, found that three-quarters of Arab Israelis feel they are being discriminated against. Less than 60% of their Jewish compatriots think Arabs are subject to discrimination.

Almost 90% of Israeli Jews said they were proud of their nationality, according to the index, the tenth annual installment of which was published Thursday by the Israel Democracy Institute an independent research institute based in Jerusalem.

Fewer than a third of Israeli Arabs said they “trust” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (32%), while nearly 80% of Arab respondents are confident in the Supreme Court, the survey shows. Sixty-two percent trust the police and 52% trust President Shimon Peres.

Nearly 70% of the country’s Arab population feel they have minimal or no ability to influence government policy, the index showed. Among Israeli Jews, that number is slightly lower, at 62 percent. Those who participated in last summer’s social protest movement feel a stronger sense of belonging to the state than those who did not, the study found.

The study also shows that more Israelis are optimists than pessimists

Other key findings show that 42% of Israeli Jews would like Israel to be defined as a “Jewish and democratic” state, with both attributes being equally important. A third of Jewish respondents find it more important for Israel to be Jewish than democratic, while 22% prefer the democratic over the Jewish character of the state.

Asked about the country’s “overall situation today,” 38% responded that the situation is either “very good” or “quite good,” while 22% said “quite bad” or “very bad.” Four out of 10 respondents said Israel was doing “so-so.”

“Comparing the responses to this question over time,” the study’s authors write, “we find that since the first survey in 2003, there has been a steady rise in the assessment of Israel’s overall situation, though the most frequent response remains ‘so-so.’” In 2003 only 11% assessed Israel’s situation as good.

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